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An in-depth look at the Mac Mini Refresh [Video]

July 22, 2011 in Mac, Main Blog, Uncategorized

Alongside the MacBook Airs, the Mac Minis have also received an update. In our opinion, this update is a big step that Apple has made, compared to how the MacBook Air update was over the previous model. This is not only because of the upgrade from Intel Core 2 Duo to Sandy Bridge Core i5/i7 CPU, or the upgrade to Thunderbolt technology, but also the exclusion of a SuperDrive. Because Apple have left out the SuperDrive, how we can’t watch DVDs or import CDs, or even install applications from disks. Well according to Apple, that’s not a problem because now you have the iTunes Store for media, and the Mac App Store for all your apps. What we noticed is that because Apple has discontinued the white MacBooks, now the most affordable notebook is the MacBook Air, and that doesn’t have a SuperDrive. And, the most affordable Mac desktop is the Mac Mini, and it doesn’t have a SuperDrive. However, the pro-lines of Macs, such as the MacBook Pro and the iMac does sport SuperDrives. Meaning that Apple really is trying to push the basic consumers away from these CDs and DVDs that we don’t need anymore. Apple may decide to kill of the SuperDrive from the MacBook Pros and the iMacs, but that didn’t happen this year, and who knows, that might not happen for another 2 years or so. Now let’s take a look at the new features.

New Features:

As we expected, the new Intel Sandy Bridge Core i Series of CPUs have arrived in the new Mac Minis. Clock speeds range from dual-core 2.3GHz Core i5, configurable up to 2.7GHz Core i7. Apple claims a speed increase of up to 2x faster than the previous model which had the Intel Core 2 Duo at 2.4GHz.

 

 

The new Mac Minis also sport the powerful AMD Radeon HD 6630 graphics, which allow performances up to 2x faster. Although we do believe that this is a nice addition, we have to warn everyone that this GPU is not included in the baseline Mac Mini model, as it is only included in the high-end model. The baseline model only sports the Intel HD 3000 graphics. Therefore we would really like you to watch out when purchasing a new Mac Mini. Our advice is to go for the high-end model. This is simply due to this GPU. The AMD graphics are superior over the Intel graphics and will show a noticeable difference in performance speeds.

 

In replacement of the Mini DisplayPort, we now have a Thunderbolt port, that Apple is pushing, which have data transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s. This is a nice addition, and the great thing is that even though Apple is pushing this Thunderbolt technology, and that this technology pretty much is capable of replacing every other I/O, you still get a HDMI port, FireWire 800 port, 4 USB 2.0 ports gigabit ethernet port and an SD card slot.

 

The interesting part of the Mac Mini is how configurable it is. The high-end Mac Mini can sport up to 8GB RAM, and you can also replace the stock 500GB 5400rpm hard drive with a 750GB 7200rpm disk. However, it doesn’t stop there. The new Mac Minis now support the ability to configure SSDs of a capacity of 256GB, and it can also support dual-drives of a combination of a 750GB 7200rpm hard drive plus a 256GB SSD. Although this is a pricey option, it will definitely make your Mac Mini very speedy. There is also a Mac Mini Server, and this server includes the Lion Server pre-installed. Hardware specs include a quad-core Sandy Bridge 2.0GHz Core i7 CPU, which is the same as the baseline 15inch MacBook Pro. Storage starts from dual 750GB 7200rpm hard drives, and that can be configurable with all the options that the high-end Mac Mini can, and also an addition of a dual SSD drive with 256GB on each drive.

Overall, we think that the new Mac Minis are a great buy, especially with all the new hardware that has been included. However, we do like you to consider about the SuperDrive before your purchase, as you might actually need this for your CDs and DVDs, if you still use them. However, now we do have the iTunes Store and the Mac App Store, so there is less of a need of the SuperDrive, but it still feels odd for the SuperDrive to be taken out from a desktop machine. Other than that, we need you to be aware that the baseline Mac Mini does NOT include the AMD HD graphics, because it is only present in the high-end models, and the baseline models will only have the Intel HD 3000 graphics.

We have also made a video on our thoughts and opinions regarding the Mac Mini refresh:

About the Author: Kenta Arai is a tech enthusiast who was born in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan. His passion towards technology began to develop as he grew up in Hong Kong, where technology had its solid place in the mass market. Arai became one of the most enthusiastic technophile student in his high-school, and was also well-known for consulting many of his school-mates when purchasing new computers. His expertise in the tech industry is focused onApple Inc. and Google Inc.

Sandy Bridge MacBook Airs Arrive [Video]

July 22, 2011 in Mac, Main Blog, Uncategorized

 

As expected, on July 20th, the MacBook Air lines have been refreshed with new Sandy Bridge CPU, Thunderbolt port and the return of the backlit keyboard. The design of the machine has not changed, and Apple still offers two models: 11inch and a 13inch. Both models still run on flash storage, capacities ranging from 64GB up to 256GB. Both models sport a Thunderbolt port in replacement of the Mini DisplayPort, however the SD card slot is still only present on the 13inch. The MacBook Airs ship with Lion pre-installed, and are priced competitively starting from $999, although in countries like the UK and Hong Kon, we have seen a price drop on every single model.

New Features:

The new MacBook Airs now offer the latest Intel Sandy Bridge CPU, with clock speeds starting from dual-core 1.6GHz Core i5, configurable up to 1.7 GHz Core i7. Apple claims the new MacBook Airs to have speeds of up to 2.5x faster than last years model, and the early benchmarks have shown that the speed of these MacBook Airs to be faster than last years MacBook Pro models.

 

Apple has really been pushing their new Thunderbolt I/O, which was an invention in collaboration with Intel. Thunderbolt technology allows data transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s, and also enables users to daisy chain up to six Thunderbolt enabled peripherals, such as external hard drives and Apple’s latest Thunderbolt Display which will also enable users to have an extra FireWire 800 port, a gigabit ethernet port, another Thunderbolt port and 3 extra USB 2.0 ports.

 

One feature that Apple decided to exclude from the 2010 MacBook Airs is the backlit keyboard. The backlit keyboard has always been present since the original MacBook Air that was introduced back in 2008. Now they have included the backlit keyboard in both the 11inch and 13inch model, and are promoting this as a “new feature”. Since the backlit keyboard was absent from previous models, the dedicated backlit keyboard button had disappeared. making the keyboard have one extra (useless) key. However, now that we have the backlot keyboard back, these buttons have also returned. Speaking of keyboards, now that Apple has shipped OS X Lion, they have also changed the keyboard shortcuts. The previous Expose key is now used for Mission Control, and the previous Dashboard key is now used for LaunchPad.

Overall, we think that this years refresh of the MacBook Airs were more than acceptable, with the inclusion of fast Intel Sandy Bridge CPU and Thunderbolt technology. The backlit keyboard may please new customers, however it may disappoint previous MacBook Air customers; now knowing that the backlit keyboard can actually fit, some might say that Apple decided to exclude it from previous models, to make people want to buy the new models as well. But either way, we think that this is a great addition. However, there is one thing that we were disappointed by, and that is the FaceTime camera. We all expected the FaceTime camera to be upgraded to a FaceTime HD camera, however that did not happen. Either due to the extreme thinness of the display, or maybe because Apple are going to wait until the next generation. All in all, the new MacBook Airs are a great buy, especially if you live in the UK or Hong Kong, now with much more affordable prices.

Because Apple has decided to drop the white MacBook out completely, the MacBook Airs are now the most affordable notebook that you can purchase. This may be a problem for some people, especially switchers and students, who have a certain budget, and would like to get as much as they can for their money. The baseline MacBook Air only offers 64GB of storage, whilst the white MacBook used to offer 320GB of storage. This discontinuation may suggest that Apple really is trying to push users away from old technology such as traditional hard drives and the SuperDrive, and basically rely fully on downloads from the Mac App Store and the iTunes Store.

We also have a video regarding our thoughts and opinions on the new MacBook Air refresh:

About the Author: Kenta Arai is a tech enthusiast who was born in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan. His passion towards technology began to develop as he grew up in Hong Kong, where technology had its solid place in the mass market. Arai became one of the most enthusiastic technophile student in his high-school, and was also well-known for consulting many of his school-mates when purchasing new computers. His expertise in the tech industry is focused on Apple Inc. and Google Inc.